Beyonce, queen of all powers
Rihanna, goddess of success
Lauryn singing fiyah words of love
Cardi and Megan shining, resplendent with WAP.
Teach us, O wise ones, how to guard divinity
in our hands, down the length of our necks
into the thiccness of our thighs
and the soles of our feet.
Teach us how to entrance with exposed skin;
an eye glimpsing a bare leg, a low cut revealing
the dip and curve of breast, an arm stretched
above the head to show a soft spread of bare chest.
Teach us to laugh after wild cows in the field, to admire
the sun as she lights up a building we’ve seen a hundred times,
to fill the dancing places of our city, now overlain
as streets of praise to the enslaved.
Teach us how to sing a birdsong note of freedom,
to speak affectionately of each other into the dead
of night, singing hashtag praise songs:
#slay #yaaaassista #awholequeen
Who could take anything from us
when we stride through streets
with our hands held together?
Notes on this poem
Enheduanna was a high priestess in the 23rd century BCE, elected to create calm and unity amongst conflicting groups of people in the Sumerian city of Ur, now southern Iraq. She is the earliest poet whose name has been recorded, with a legacy that continued long a&er her death. Her poem ‘Nin-me-šara’, known as ‘The Exaltation of Inanna’, honours the female goddess of war and sex who she turns to for strength and support after being exiled. This record of her faith, hopes and fears was etched onto wet stone and solidified for thousands of years, so that we can still enjoy and identify with her words now. In this translation, I was interested in drawing out the language and methods we use today to encourage and affirm each other, focusing on specific celebrity figures who could be considered icons of femininity and empowerment. In the present day, the equivalent of our praise songs are encoded through comments and likes, hashtags and emojis which are made to be shared in an online space. I’m interested in the community that can be built when women affirm one another and ‘stride through streets with hands held together’.
– Jessica Wood